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After success… failure!

Well that’s the business of writing, isn’t it? Of three SF pieces I submitted in the last month, I’ve had emails back from two mags to say that they’re suspending publication indefinitely, though hope to be back sometime in the future when the economic climate is better.
Thinking more generally, at one level it’s easy these days to set up a magazine. Plenty of programmes exist to code HTML or create PDFs, and print-on-demand is relatively straightforward – Lulu, Fictionwise, Feedbooks, or Issuu for free stuff. The key demands are time, energy and motivation. The problem is getting any kind of income from it that pays for the publisher’s and writers’ time and creativity, because there is a huge expectation that ‘culture’ of any description should be free. Plus there’s the ‘Youtube effect’ – what we do for entertainment has become the province of blogs written for specific social networks and people messing about with digital video for their own amusement. Sometimes it escapes that context and gets a bigger following though mostly it doesn’t. Music can be downloaded for free from all over the place; art and photography can be got from Flickr.
Conclusion: it’s never been easier to set something up, it’s never been harder to set something up and make money from it – even enough to pay small running costs.
The traditional solution has been to take advertising. But that’s a problem in the current economic climate. There are other possibilities – provide more in the print version that is viewable online, for example. Have added-value extras that are charged for, such as prints of artwork and podcasts of stories, or book-style anthology collections that contain additional unpublished material. Look for Arts Council grants. Or, like Wikipedia, just invite donations. The other way to go or course is for publishers to treat creatives as the source of their income by charging reading fees though as a creative (I hope) that doesn’t sound too attractive.
There’s a way to go before the new economic shape of small independent publishing will find new models that work, and in the meantime no doubt a few more will go under…

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